Skip to content

Acting locally on climate change: solar energy

  • by JW

“Reducing fuel costs through solar energy” [Sid Valley Energy Action Group]

“The question is whether any concerted actions for solar energy can be undertaken.”


What can Sidmouth do to address climate change?


A correspondent has sent in a proposal:

On a sunny August day I was thinking about easy to fit and operate solar panels installed on the town’s roofs and a community solar and sheep farm on the Sidford fields instead of the industrial estate!

There are of course several providers of solar panels to be installed on our own private roof spaces, but the question is whether any concerted actions for solar energy can be undertaken.

Firstly, as the local planning authority, the District Council has to map out the future of East Devon. Back in 2021, as part of its local plan consultation, it looked at feedback from residents on climate change and the environment:

One of the big questions EDDC has asked residents is at what point in time it should require all new buildings to be zero carbon. In total 42 per cent of respondents favoured making all new developments carbon neutral from the point the new plan is adopted…

Another hot topic of debate was on where or if East Devon should have solar farms and wind farms. An overwhelming 63 per cent of respondents favoured the authority identifying specific areas for solar and wind farms, whilst 18 per cent of residents said they supported the general idea.

Suggestions from residents included avoiding large scale wind and solar farms to protect the look of East Devon’s beautiful coast and countryside, and instead focus on using solar panels on roofs, especially larger buildings like farm barns. The use of solar tiles, which some consider less intrusive, for housing in more sensitive areas was also favoured.


The VGS’s energy group looked at local initiatives – with an event back in 2009 to look at reducing fuel costs through solar energy and another in 2013 demonstrating how solar PV can be used to charge electric vehicles.

However, since the scrapping of government incentives since then, there have been various other solar panel schemes, including the current system of grants as laid out by the Independent this month:

Installing solar panels can save you money on your household bills, decrease the dependency on fossil fuels, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. In May 2023 alone, more than 11,000 properties decided to make the move to solar power, but you may feel overwhelmed by the initial cost of solar panels. Fortunately, thanks to government agencies and regulators, including Ofgem, the financial outlay may not be as significant as you expect, and under the ECO4 scheme, solar panels may actually be free.   Our experts answer all your questions about solar panel grants, including: 

  • Will a grant help reduce the solar panel’s cost?
  • What financial help is available, and am I eligible?
  • Is the application process straightforward?

We look at the financial aid options available, your eligibility, and the application process, providing a comprehensive, step-by-step guide.

A lot of these schemes are dependent on the local council : lower-income households can apply for free energy efficiency improvements to their homes, there is the solar panel group-buying scheme across Devon, and there is other funding for energy efficiency measures available – but much of this is hardly transparent or easy to get hold of.


Another spot to put solar panels would be car parks:

The French government has passed a law which will require all car parks with more than 80 spaces to install solar canopies over at least half the area they cover. The move is expected to generate around 11 gigawatts of energy – enough to power nearly 8 million homes and the same as around 10 power stations.

There is now solar cladding for rural outbuildings available:

Not at all suitable for Sidmouth but might be of interest to small-holdings and farmers whose out-buildings are often rather unattractive already…

In fact, there are all sorts of new solar roof technologies being developed


The most controversial proposals are putting large-scale panels on farmland – but another way of seeing this is the notion of agrivoltaic solar farms:

“Agrivoltaic farming is the practice of growing crops underneath solar panels. Doubling up on land use in this way could help feed the world’s growing population while also providing sustainable energy.”

With a recent example in Cornwall:

“We are very pleased that further to the environmental and biodiversity benefits of the proposal, the land will remain in agricultural use with a grazing license existing on the site for sheep to graze in panel areas.  There will also be cereal cropping on approximately 25 hectares of the site, enabling the continued production of food, and support for ground nesting birds such as skylark.”

Such projects can actually enhance biodiversity:

“A solar farm gives land the opportunity for multiple uses. In addition to renewable energy production, solar farms can continue to be grazed by sheep and support biodiversity with wildflowers sown around the site.”

Or such spreads of solar panels can be done out at sea:

Giant floating solar panel flowers provide clean energy to over 60,000 people Floating solar panels on the surface of the Hapcheon Dam in South Korea

So, how can the Sid Valley take practical steps to tackle climate change – and bring down energy bills?